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Tracking the Iraq War

March 19, 2013

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The tenth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq has produced an outpouring of retrospectives. The following is an editors' pick of discussions at CFR meetings that included debate and analysis from speakers including Richard Perle, Gareth Evans, Ahmad Chalabi, Richard Haass, Chris Hill, and Hoshyar Zebari.

Jan. 22, 2002 Getting Saddam: A Debate

Getting Saddam: A DebatePhoto: Khalid al-Mousuly/Courtesy Reuters

Leon Fuerth, former national security adviser to Vice President Al Gore, and Richard N. Perle, chairman of the Defense Science Policy Board, debate regime change in Iraq:

Perle: "I submit to you that while there are risks, the risks of doing nothing, the risks of waiting and leaving it to Saddam to decide whether and when he will take action against us, are far more dangerous."

Fuerth: "I agree that we should get rid of Saddam Hussein, and since I don't agree that it should be put off indefinitely, what I am talking about is preparing a realistic path toward that goal, one that we can present to others and then proceed. But I don't believe that preparing an American oligopoly is the right way to organize it."

March 10, 2003 Is There an Alternative to War?

Is There an Alternative to War?Photo credit: Goran Tomasevic/Courtesy Reuters

Gareth Evans, president of the International Crisis Group, warns about the looming war in Iraq:

"I think the consequences of this particular war are potentially quite disconcerting in the sense that the risk/reward balance is tilted much more on the risk side than for any previous major encounter I can recall in the last fifteen, twenty years or so."

June 10, 2003 A Conversation With Ahmad Chalabi

Ahmad Chalabi, co-founder of the Iraqi National Congress, speaks with Tom Brokaw about the U.S. invasion:

"The weapons of mass destruction are in Iraq. The way to get them ... they've gone about getting them in, I don't think, a very impressive way. They have had very little input from Iraqis on this issue. I don't think that they have many of the scientists who were involved in the weapons program to talk to at this time, and there were thousands of people, engineers and scientists, they know where the weapons are."

Sept. 10, 2003 Remembering Arthur Helton

Senior UN official Edward Mortimer, reading a note from the UN Secretary-General, pays tribute to Arthur Helton, a CFR senior fellow and top humanitarian expert killed in the terrorist bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad:

"We at the United Nations knew him as an exceptional ally and partner, one who always asked important questions, and did not flinch from ambitious answers. We recall with affection and with sadness his gentle manner and great energy. He made a vital contribution to our debates on humanitarian action, and his writings will continue to guide us in the future. Arthur's luck ran out that awful day in Baghdad, but only after a lifetime of being in the right place, again, and again, and again."

March 16, 2004 Iraq: One Year After

The "War of Necessity"Photo credit: Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters

CFR Senior Fellow Max Boot reviews the Iraq campaign in the aftermath of a terrorist bombing in Madrid that prompted Spain's withdrawal from the U.S.-led military coalition:

"I certainly think that right now Iraq has become a leading battleground in the war on terrorism. And it would be disastrous if we were to run up the white flag, as the Spanish seem to be doing right now. I think that would send a message that would reinforce the message of [the 1993 U.S. withdrawal from] Somalia, reinforce the message of [the U.S. withdrawal from] Beirut in 1983, which is that we can be rolled pretty easily by a few suicide bombers."

Nov. 8, 2005 The Way Forward in Iraq

Journalist Robert Fisk, a veteran correspondent in Iraq, assesses the security situation there:

"I think all the dreams, the project of democracy, of hope for the future of new freedoms across the Middle East, is probably dead. From Mosul right down to Basra across the roads and highways and countryside are in the hands of armed men, armed tribesmen, insurgents. It's gone. There are armed men half a mile from the Green Zone in Baghdad, as we know in the Haifa Street area. Large areas of Baghdad are slowly slipping out of government control now."

May 8, 2007 Assessing the Surge in Iraq

Assessing the Surge in IraqPhoto credit: Ellen Ozier/Courtesy Reuters

With the U.S. military surge in Iraq in full gear, CFR Senior Fellow Stephen Biddle offers his take on the prospects for success:

"I think a success is possible, but it's unlikely; this is a long shot. If it's going to happen, the only way it will happen is by a series of negotiated deals between the U.S. and the government of Iraq and to particular factions in which they agree to take combatants who remain armed and in the field and capable of violence, but they agree not to use that violence potential and instead to observe a cease-fire because they think it's in their self-interest to do that."

May 4, 2009 War of Necessity, War of Choice With Richard Haass

CFR President Richard N. Haass discusses his new book on the two Iraq wars with New Yorker editor David Remnick.

"People really believed that [the second Iraq war] was going to be a transforming event. They thought that the change in Iraq was going to happen, it was going to be big, dramatic, and relatively inexpensive. This was going to become a democratic model society. And this, in turn, would set in motion a cascade of copycat revolutions throughout the region."

February 18, 2010 Iraq: The Way Forward

The Way ForwardPhoto credit: Khalid al-Mousuly/Courtesy Reuters

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill gives a readout on electoral developments:

"Our interest in a long-term relationship with Iraq rests on our interests with a long-term relationship with a democratic Iraq. Our interests -- our understanding of how the Kurds, for example, play a role in Iraq is an understanding that Kurds will only be in Iraq insofar as there's an Iraq that lives up to its democratic constitution."

September 20, 2011 A Conversation With Hoshyar Zebari

Iraq's foreign minister assesses the country's trajectory ahead of the pullout of U.S. ground troops:

"Iraq used to answer this question of [national security] with Saddam Hussein through building huge armies, weapons, WMDs, attacks and threats and so on. Now the new Iraq has abandoned all this, and it has to rely on its system, its political system, its economic prosperity and the wealth it has with the good, neighborly relations with its neighbor -- I mean, with a country like Iran, where we have nearly 1,300 joint border lands, let's say, with them, and with many, many interests."

Maya Dawit contributed to this roundup.

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